Using hormones to manage dairy cow fertility: the clinical and ethical beliefs of veterinary practitioners.
ABSTRACT: In the face of a steady decline in dairy cow fertility over several decades, using hormones to assist reproduction has become common. In the European Union, hormones are prescription-only medicines, giving veterinary practitioners a central role in their deployment. This study explored the clinical and ethical beliefs of practitioners, and provides data on their current prescribing practices. During 2011, 93 practitioners working in England completed a questionnaire (95% response rate). Of the 714 non-organic farms they attended, only 4 farms (0.6%) never used hormones to assist the insemination of lactating dairy cows. Practitioners agreed (>80%) that hormones improve fertility and farm businesses profitability. They also agreed (>80%) that if farmers are able to tackle management issues contributing to poor oestrus expression, then over a five year period these outcomes would both improve, relative to using hormones instead. If management issues are addressed instead of prescribing hormones, practitioners envisaged a less favourable outcome for veterinary practices profitability (p<0.01), but an improvement in genetic selection for fertility (p<0.01) and overall cow welfare (p<0.01). On farms making no efforts to address underlying management problems, long-term routine use at the start of breeding for timing artificial insemination or inducing oestrus was judged "unacceptable" by 69% and 48% of practitioners, respectively. In contrast, practitioners agreed (? 90%) that both these types of use are acceptable, provided a period of time has been allowed to elapse during which the cow is observed for natural oestrus. Issues discussed include: weighing quality versus length of cow life, fiscal factors, legal obligations, and balancing the interests of all stakeholders, including the increasing societal demand for food. This research fosters debate and critical appraisal, contributes to veterinary ethics, and encourages the pro-active development of professional codes of conduct.
Project description:Fertility in dairy cows has declined over the past five decades as milk production per cow has increased. Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain this including issues of genetics, physiology, nutrition and management, and these factors have been investigated at the animal, organ and cellular level at critical time points of the productive life of dairy cows. This paper reviews the physiological events and their causes and consequences affecting fertility in dairy cows and summarises these in a downloadable poster. We consider the following points to have the greatest negative impact on fertility and that they need to be prioritised in efforts to ameliorate the problem (others have been included in the review). Firstly, minimise negative energy balance and resolve any infection of the post partum uterus. Secondly, expression and detection of oestrus followed by insemination with high quality semen (day 0). Thirdly, ovulation and fertilisation of a high quality oocyte (day 1). Fourthly, an early increase in progesterone secretion from the corpus luteum (days 3-7). Fifthly, the uterine endometrium must produce an early and appropriate environment to stimulate embryo development (days 6-13). This leads to sixthly, a large embryo producing adequate quantities of interferon tau (days 14-18) that alters uterine prostaglandin secretion and signals maternal recognition of pregnancy (days 16-18). Future strategies to improve dairy cow fertility are needed for the benefit of the dairy industry and for cow welfare and should be based upon an integrative approach of these events.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Endometritis is a prevalent uterine disease in postpartum cows. The disease reduces fertility performance and milk yield, and subsequently, productivity and profitability of dairy farms. The reduction in performance is associated with considerable economic losses on dairy farms. Smallholder farmers are likely to incur considerable economic losses from the disease where they lack knowledge of effective prevention and control measures for the disease. This study used farmer's perspectives to determine the effectiveness of different management interventions (MIs) for endometritis prevention and control on smallholder farms in Rwanda practicing dairy zero-grazing. The best-worst scaling (BWS) choice method was applied that relied on past 1 year recall data obtained from 154 farmers. These farmers were identified through snowball sampling in a cross-sectional study. RESULTS:Of the 20 MIs evaluated, 12 scored highly for effectiveness. The top four most effective are: avoiding sharing equipment with neighbouring farms (45.5%), consulting animal health service provider about disease treatment (31.8%), keeping cows in a clean and dry shed (26.7%), and selecting sires based on calving ease (26.6%). The MIs considered least effective were: maintaining clean transition cow housing (35.1%), removal of fetal membrane immediately after passing (33.1%), disinfecting the equipment used in calving assistance before and after use (32.5%), and selecting sires with low percent stillbirths (29.2%). CONCLUSION:This study has demonstrated the application of BWS object case method in understanding the MIs that farmers consider are most effective in the prevention and control of endometritis disease in the dairy herds. The MIs are on-farm biosecurity and hygiene, seeking veterinary services for disease treatment and selecting sires for ease of calving. These MIs should be considered for prioritization in extension services and research to continuously improve and enhance their practical application on smallholder dairy farms.
Project description:Dairy cow farming plays an important role in the UK and worldwide economies. Significant challenges are currently being faced regarding sustainability of the dairy industry. Dairy cow subfertility remains an important issue limiting herd productivity, resulting in annual losses of hundreds of millions of pounds in the UK alone. To address this, accurate monitoring of reproductive status and early detection of fertility issues in individual cows is essential. The aim of this study was to gather farmer and veterinarian opinions on current practices and perceived gaps related to diagnosis of fertility issues and pregnancy testing in UK dairy farms. Using online questionnaires, data were collected and analyzed from a total of 40 farmers and 59 veterinarians. The results showed that non-seen bulling checks and ultrasound were the most frequent tools to detect fertility issues, and that most farmers tested post-calving, and often again before or during mating. Most farmers believed that current tests did not meet their expectations, with half of those being willing to pay more than they were currently paying for fertility testing. In regard to pregnancy testing, ultrasound was most commonly used, at 30-50 days post-insemination either in individual or groups of cows. Again, most farmers believed that current tests did not meet their expectations, and a majority would consider paying a higher cost for a test that was better than those currently available. In addition, a majority of farmers would consider using a test that could detect pregnancy within 2 weeks post-insemination, if such test existed, because they believed it would help improve their herds' reproductive performance. Overall, the opinions of farmers and veterinarians indicate that there is significant scope for improving dairy herd fertility monitoring practices in the UK, through development of improved assays that can diagnose pregnancy and infertility earlier, are less disruptive to farm operations and are more cost effective than available tools. They also provide useful information to guide the future development and implementation of better diagnostics for improving reproductive performance of dairy cattle.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:The use of genetic markers can help to enhance reproduction in cattle, which is a very important trait for profitability in dairy production systems. This study evaluated the association between genotypes of leptin (LEP), toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), and chemokine receptor of interleukin 8 C-X-C motif (CXCR1) genes and fertility traits in Czech Fleckvieh cattle. METHODS:Phenotypic data from 786 Czech Fleckvieh cows raised on 5 farms in the Czech Republic were used, along with information from the 1st three parities. To determine genotype, the polymerase chain reaction- restriction fragment length polymorphism method was used. RESULTS:Except for LEP g.-963C>T, all studied genotype frequencies of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were distributed according to the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Two LEP SNPs (g.-963C>T and c.357C>T) were associated with the age at the 1st calving, days open (DO), pregnancy rate after 1st service (PR), and calving interval (CLI). In LEP g.-963C>T the TT genotype heifers firstly calved 24 days earlier than CC genotype and the CT genotype cow showed a tendency for shorter DO and higher PR. In LEP c.357C>T we observed longer CLI and DO period in TT cows. In general, we can propose the TT genotype of g.-963C>T as favorable and the TT genotype of c.357C>T as unfavorable for a cow´s fertility. Heterozygotes in TLR4 c.-226C>G were significantly associated with shorter CLI, and presented a nonsignificant tendency to be associated with higher PR. In CXCR1 c.777 C>G, we did not observe any relationship of this SNP with reproduction. CONCLUSION:Overall, the results showed that LEP could be an effective marker for improving reproduction in Czech Fleckvieh cattle. This study also provides novel insights into the relationship between TLR4 and CXCR1 SNPs and reproduction in dual-purpose cattle.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Bovine brucellosis is a zoonotic disease that causes substantial economic losses and has a strong impact on public health. The main objective of this paper is to determine the risk factors for new infections of Brucella abortus on Colombian cattle farms previously certified as being free of brucellosis. A case-control study was conducted by comparing 98 cases (farms certified as brucellosis-free for three or more years but became infected) with 93 controls (farms that remained brucellosis-free during at least the previous three years). The farms were matched by herd size and geographical location (municipality). Information was obtained via a questionnaire completed by veterinary officers through a personal interview with the herd owners.<h4>Results</h4>Two-thirds of the herds (67%) were dairy herds, 16% were beef herds, and 17% were dual-purpose (beef and milk) herds. After exploratory univariate analysis, all explanatory variables with a p-value of ?0.20 were included in a logistic regression model using the forward stepwise method to select the model with the best goodness of fit. The significant risk factors were the replacement of animals from farms not certified as brucellosis-free compared to replacement from certified brucellosis-free farms (OR?=?4.84, p-value <?0.001) and beef cattle farms compared to dairy cattle farms (OR?=?3.61, p-value?=?0.017). When herds with and without artificial insemination were compared, it was observed that farms that used natural breeding with bulls from non-certified herds had a higher risk than farms using artificial insemination (OR?=?2.45, p-value?=?0.037), but when the bulls came from brucellosis-free farms, farms with natural breeding were less affected (OR?=?0.30, p-value?=?0.004) than farms using artificial insemination, whether with frozen semen from certified brucellosis-free herds or fresh semen from uncontrolled herds. The latter is commonly sold to neighbouring farms.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The government should make efforts to inform farmers about the risks involved in the introduction of semen and replacement heifers from farms that are not certified as brucellosis-free and to establish measures to control these practices.
Project description:High turnover rate in dairy farms due to culling and mortality is associated with poor animal welfare, an increase in production costs and lower economic benefits for the dairy farm. Understanding cow elimination better would help to formulate specific prevention measures and improve the efficiency of milk production in dairy farms. Culling and mortality data from five standard high-producing dairy farms in Spain were analysed over a period of 11 years (2006-2016). Data were collected by the same veterinary team and using the same software system.Significant between-herd differences in eliminated cows were observed for type of elimination (slaughter or death on the farm), age at elimination, cause of elimination, number of lactations and production parameters, such as total days in milk, life milk yield, litres per day of productive life and litres per day of life. Culling and mortality were higher during the hot season and for cows of second and third parities. Between-herd differences were observed. Reproductive disorders (30.2%) were the most frequent reason for elimination, with low production (23.4%) being the second most frequent reason. Accidents on the farm (7.7%) were a more frequent cause of elimination than metabolic diseases (7.2%), locomotor disorders (2.4%) and obstetrics (2.4%).Veterinary teams or farmers' associations can use culling and mortality information for benchmarking cow farms if data collection and analysis is standardised for comparability. The analysis of culling and mortality information should help farmers to improve efficiency.
Project description:American black bears (Ursus americanus) are seasonally polyoestrous and exhibit delayed implantation, which may allow equal and independent fertility of recurrent oestruses of a mating season. We postulated that the luteal inactivity during delayed implantation allows bears to have sequential ovulation during a polyoestrous mating season such that each oestrus of a polyoestrous female will have equivalent fertility, and pregnancy would not preclude subsequent ovulation and superfetation. Controlled mating experiments were conducted on semi-free-ranging female American black bears during three mating seasons, wherein females were bred by different male cohorts in each oestrus. Behavioural observation, vulva score ranking, genetic paternity analysis, gross morphology of ovaries and microscopic morphology of diapaused embryos were used to evaluate the fertility of each subsequent oestrus in polyoestrous females. Oestrus duration, number of successful mounts and median vulva scores were similar between first and subsequent oestruses of the season. Polyoestrus occurred in 81.3% of oestrous females, with a 9.7?±?5.5 day (mean?±?SD) inter-oestrous interval. Sequential ovulation was documented in three polyoestrous females, including one that possessed both a corpus haemorrhagicum and a developed corpus luteum. Among polyoestrous dams, four of nine embryos were conceived in the first oestrus and five of nine in the second oestrus. These results indicate that each oestrus of polyoestrous females is capable of fertility, even if the female is already pregnant from a prior oestrus. Although superfetation was not directly observed in the present study, our results strongly suggest the potential of superfetation in the American black bear and provide novel insight into the complex behavioural and physiological breeding mechanisms of bears. Given that most endangered bear species share similar reproductive traits with American black bears, captive breeding programmes could take advantage of superfetation by mating females with different males at each subsequent oestrus of the season in order to increase the genetic diversity of captive endangered bears.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In both beef and dairy cattle, the majority of early embryo loss occurs within the first 14 days following insemination. During this time-period, embryos are completely dependent on their maternal uterine environment for development, growth and ultimately survival, therefore an optimum uterine environment is critical to their survival. The objective of this study was to investigate whether differences in endometrial gene expression during the mid-luteal phase of the estrous cycle exist between crossbred beef heifers ranked as either high (HF) or low fertility (LF) (following four rounds of artificial insemination (AI)) using the Affymetrix® 23 K Bovine Gene Chip. RESULTS: Conception rates for each of the four rounds of AI were within a normal range: 70-73.3%. Microarray analysis of endometrial tissue collected on day 7 of the estrous cycle detected 419 differentially expressed genes (DEG) between HF (n = 6) and LF (n = 6) animals. The main gene pathways affected were, cellular growth and proliferation, angiogenesis, lipid metabolism, cellular and tissue morphology and development, inflammation and metabolic exchange. DEG included, FST, SLC45A2, MMP19, FADS1 and GALNT6. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights, some of the molecular mechanisms potentially controlling uterine endometrial function during the mid-luteal phase of the estrous cycle, which may contribute to uterine endometrial mediated impaired fertility in cattle. Differentially expressed genes are potential candidate genes for the identification of genetic variation influencing cow fertility, which may be incorporated into future breeding programmes.
Project description:During 2005-2008, veterinary practitioners reported ocular infection by Thelazia spp. nematodes in 115 dogs and 2 cats in southwestern France. Most cases were detected in Dordogne, particularly in 3 counties with numerous strawberry farms, which may favor development of the fruit fly vector. Animal thelaziosis may lead to emergence of human cases.
Project description:Primiparous sows were randomly allocated to two treatments and were separated from piglets 8h daily from Day 21 of lactation companied with daily boar exposure for oestrus detection until weaning (Day 28). Gene expression of Day 9 embryos were compared between control sows (FE; sows artificially inseminated when in heat during lactation ) and Skip-a-Heat sows (SE; sows in heat during lactation and artificially inseminated on the following oestrus cycle). Stimulating lactational oestrus then two mating strategies were applied to primiparous sows; 1)FE; sows were in heat during lactation and received artificial insemination) and Skip-a-Heat sows (SE; sows were in heat during lactation and received artificial insemination at fallowing oestrus cycle).